MONTROSE – The West Region Wildfire Council was recently awarded $101,000 from the Bureau of Land Management to assist communities on the Western Slope in reducing wildfire risk.
The award is part of the BLM’s Community Assistance program to reduce the risk and impact of wildfire on communities within Colorado through planning, hazardous fuels reduction, mitigation and education activities.
The West Region Wildfire Council supports interagency efforts to develop and implement plans to mitigate the threat of catastrophic wildland fire to communities and natural resources in Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties. Its mission is to promote information sharing and collaboration between local communities and state and federal fire managers for fuels management, wildfire suppression, enhancing capability, planning and collaboration.
The WRWC intends to use the award to hire a Community Wildfire Protection Plan Coordinator to assist the six counties with the ongoing development, maintenance and implementation of their CWPPs. The award will also provide funding for fuels reduction projects in local communities. Funded fuels reduction projects would be prioritized by the recommendations in the respective county’s CWPP.
“This award is the catalyst to bring together regional efforts of planning to reduce wildfire risk and actually implementing projects on the ground that will increase life safety,” said Chris Barth, Fire Mitigation and Education Specialist for the Montrose Interagency Fire Management Unit.
State legislation that passed last year requires every Colorado county to identify fire hazard zones in unincorporated areas by January 1, 2011.
Within six months of identifying these zones, counties also must develop CWPPs that establish guidelines for fire mitigation in each hazard zone.
Delta, Gunnison, Montrose and Ouray counties are currently developing their CWPPs in a collaborative effort that involves local, state, and federal representatives working in conjunction with two fire management consulting firms.
The BLM has been working cooperatively with recipients to help mitigate fire hazards, along with providing fire safety education and training and planning for catastrophic wildfire events, within, or in the vicinity of BLM-managed lands in Colorado. Community Assistance awards support fire departments, local governments, community service organizations, educational institutions and nonprofit organizations throughout Colorado.